The suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi has LGBT activists and other officials calling for bias crime charges. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy after allegedly broadcasting a sexual encounter between Clementi and another man on iChat and then advertising plans to do it a second time, but some believe the internet voyeurism is an example of anti-gay bullying. Jean-Marie Navetta of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays told AP, "To this poor kid, it's better to be dead than to have people know he's gay. Therein lies the real tragedy here." Ellen DeGeneres also spoke out on her show:
Friends of both Ravi and Wei said they had no problems with gay people, and friends also said Ravi had no intention of publicly broadcasting Clementi's sexual encounter on the internet. Though that may have been true the first time, it's questionable how "accidental" writing, "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again" on Twitter is. Clementi also sought advice on Yahoo, writing, "I haven't even seen my roommate since sunday when i was asking for the room the first time….and him doing it again just set me off….so talking to him just didn't seen like an option."
Prosecutors considering hate crime charges will have to prove that Ravi and Wei invaded Clementi's privacy based on the belief that he was part of a "protected group," and New Jersey's bias intimidation law allows prosecutors to lodge separate charges against anyone who commits a crime against someone because of the victim’s sexual orientation, even if it is not violent. If they are charged with the second-degree crimes, they would face 10 years in prison for each count. Though Malcolm Lazin of Equality Forum thinks Ravi and Wei should be charged with reckless manslaughter, criminal defense lawyer Jay V. Surgent told the Times, “I think it would be hard to show that their conduct reached a level of recklessness that caused Tyler Clementi to commit suicide."
Clementi's parents thanked the overwhelming support coming from across the country, and said in a statement, "Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity." A vigil is planned for Clementi on Sunday on the steps of Brower Commons, and the Rutgers football team plans to hold a moment of silence for Clementi before their football game against Tulane University tonight. In a message on a memorial wall for Clementi, one student wrote, "To recognize this individual is not only to honor a life that was so needlessly lost, but to silently (or vocally) speak out against the flagrantly intolerant and ignorant mindset that facilitated this tragic event."